Robert Conn (Bill DeGidio) - Vocal (lead), Guitar
Bob Sablack - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Johnny Kerosec - Drums
Brandon Zart - Bass, Vocals
Life So Fast
Hello From Berlin
My Life as a Dog - Bob Sablack
The Defnics started out as No Dogs. It was Jim, Brandon and I with the addition of a new friend Bill DeGidio (R. Conn). We met Bill through Mark Vocca who worked with Brandon. Bill and Mark were baseball and fishing buddies. It was Mark's idea to set Bill up with us. I don't really remember the details but he did it.
There is a "studio" tape of No Dogs recorded in downtown Willoughby at a storefront we practiced at for a minute. This hippie guy Bill knew had a tape machine and we did five or six songs. The place was all plate glass facing the street. I remember one day we were playing and this guy was pounding on the window. Bill was saying "Don't pay attention to him he's an idiot." That guy was asshole murderer Richard Pinto. He kept coming around but I’m not sure if that was the reason that we vacated that spot.
After a while we started playing at Brandon's place in Mentor-on-the-Lake. Bill wrote all of the material for No Dogs although Brandon penned "Hello from Berlin" during this period too. Most of those tunes were used in the Defnics, and I played some of those songs in my last punk band the Plague. Songs such as "No Future" and "Crime on My Mind" were performed for ten years. No Dogs never saw the light of day. After hearing a practice tape, Hudson said we could have opened for the Pagans if they were still together.
That kind of blew my mind, because with the addition of DeGidio we had an inside track to the Cleveland scene. Not that we had a twisted Courtney Love rock-n-roll master plan or anything, we just happened to meet the right people at the right time. We were a happy band for a while but Jim grew tired of punk, after all it was 2 or 3 years old by then. He said it didn't have any soul, he was way into what The Clash were doing then. Jim quit playing drums for No Dogs in search of a Master's belt in Kun Tau Kung Fu, I think he got it.
So there we were at the end of 1980 without a drummer. My cousin John Korosec use to fool around with a set that his brother's friend would leave at his house. John wasn't supposed to play them but if you know Johnny an order such as that might as well have not been uttered at all. He bought a kit off this local cover group called Abraxas. He got good at them pretty fast and then he was in the band, which was rechristend Defnics.
The name Defnics came from Johnny. One summer afternoon when John and I were around twelve years old, we were sitting in his parent's living room watching TV. We would practice at that same house, 19207 Cherokee Rd. off E.185th St. near the projects, years later. I guess John was saying something to me but I wasn't paying attention. All I remember was hearing him saying "Defnic, hey defnic are you listening to me?" I thought it was a funny word and I never forgot it. Johnny is a naturally hilarious guy, he's always making words up and busting balls. So when we were standing around the basement/jam room trying to think of a new name I offered up John's "Defnics". Everyone liked it but John had no idea that he made it up some eight years earlier, I had to tell him.
This was a great time for me. It was Punk Rock 101. It was these days that I learned:
1.) You won't make any money and
2.) You won't make any money. By the time Grunge broke everyone I knew were hanging up their guns and the "new punks" were making the money.
C’est la vie.
Having Bill in the band was great; he always had real cool insights and was the voice of reason. He was the only one who had done something band wise out of all of us. We loved the fact we had a Pagan in the band. Punk was fun and life was good! As Brandon said, "All I want to play is Punk, Punk and more Punk." That was cool with me. I showed Brandon how to play a couple of songs a few years earlier and now he was writing more and better songs than me, and I was playing since I was thirteen. I never saw anyone take to music that fast. He was a natural.
LOVE YOU LIVE
Our first show was at the Euclid Tavern with the Generics. It was o.k. I guess, I mean I don’t remember being nervous or playing badly or anything. The best part was that the guys working the bar were yelling at us, saying we sucked and to turn it down. I guess they didn’t like "Red Spy" or "Governor’s Daughter". They even shut the board down on us. Not too hip for the now hip Euclid Tavern.
That place was strictly a blues bar back then and they were trying out this new wave stuff. So dare I say that the Generics and the Defnics were the first punk/new wave/alternative band to play the Tavern? Our next shows were at The Flipside on Green Road. That was the place the cover photo to our 45 and most of the pictures on this site are from.
That night it was the Revolvers and the Defnics. One night there, this barfly chick was really fucking with Johnny for no reason. After about an hour of haranguing he had to tell her, "Look, I hit women." That didn’t even shut her up, so her boyfriend was called and he came to the bar, bitched her out and dragged her out of there. Other places we played were The Sports Page in the Flats, Tuckeys up and down, JB's in Kent, The Pop Shop and believe it or not, this was a real place: Stairway to Rock Heaven way out in the boonies. That place sucked because there was this long stairway you had to drag your equipment up to get to the room where you played. Rock Heaven indeed. We did that show with Raven Slaughter, those guys were cool. They were genuinely interested in punk even though their bag was the Bowie/Mott thing.
During those days I met allot of great punks like Alex & Romona Strouhal (they never missed a show), Michelle, Colleen, Laverne and Mom Mulhan, Tim Kelly and Joe Little.
TERMINAL SPIRAL SCRATCHINGS
Defnics only cut one 45, "51%" b/w "Hello from Berlin". Those were recorded at Angel Studio on Mayfield Road for Hudson’s Terminal Records. It was summer 1981. I don’t think I threw in for the records because I was crying poor mouth. Those guys were probably thinking "cheap bastard". I remember doing the art for the back cover photo. I had all the credits perfectly lettered in perspective but something happened to the art, it got ruined some how and Bill had to redo it.
So after this Barney guy had them printed up I saw Bill’s version, which looked cooler because the lettering looked warped. For the front cover Bill took some White•Out and lettered Defnics and that was it. We all went over to his house one night and cut the prints up and glue sticked the covers to the sleeves of 1,000 records at his kitchen table. Some of the prints ran in blue ink, which were cool and some of them the press messed up so the image was offset and multiplied three times. Those sleeves looked really cool!
We also had a cut on Mike Hudson’s Cleveland Confidential. That was Suicide Trip, one of my favorite Defnics songs. We did that one at Mike Crossen’s studio on E.185th St. So far that’s it for our recording history. Cheese has a version of "Governor’s Daughter" coming out on his compilation PIE&EARS in Feb. 2001. I’m putting out a CD soon of all our studio stuff (5 songs) plus some live and practice material. It won’t all be studio quality but definitely decent sounding.
The Defnics found our selves at war with the Kent skinhead contingent. I guess it was a clash of punk ideology if there is such a thing. The band in particular was Zero Defex: Tommy Strange, Jimi Imij and Johnny Phlegm, I can’t remember their drummers name from the original line up but I know he was active in the Kent music scene long after ODFX broke up. We played a party with them there. We were stinking the joint up with pot smoke and were drinking beer and generally being our Cleveland selves. I think this was when ODFX decided they didn’t like our style.
We certainly didn’t fuck with them. So by the time the Grand Slam events were going on we were full-fledged enemies. I even wrote a song called "Skinheads Suck". They didn’t like that song. It was silly but like I said we didn’t fuck with them. After the Defnics broke up and we all went our separate ways, the skins booked the Misfits at this small party center they dubbed Club Hell, "Mommy can I go to Hell?" the flyer said. I went down there with Michelle Mulhan who I was dating at the time, and when we got out of the car I saw Jimi Imij approaching us. I though "Oh boy, here we go." But instead of being rude to each other or whatever, Jimi extended his hand and said something to the effect "Let’s knock this stuff off, we’re all punks, we should be on the same side." Which was really very cool of him to do because that’s how I felt but I would have never made the first move to bury the hatchet. He was so right because back then if you were a punk, everybody automatically hated you anyway, no room for in fighting. Nicely done Jimi.
So we played out as the Defnics on the East Side for almost two years. The Defnics broke up in the summer of 1982. Bill went on to join the second formation of the Pagans, the Pink Pagans as they were later referred to because of the pink LP covers and to separate that iteration from the near original line up that was to happen around ‘85. Brandon joined Red October with Chris Andrews. I started the Plague with Duke Snyder and Johnny. Also, I was jamming in the Pink Holes with Bob and Kevin drumming as Dick Hertz. The Defnics were definitely a blast and a learning experience for me. Viva la DEFNICS!
Music always fascinated me. I was a Hendrix freak by the time I was in seventh grade, which was three years after his death. Kids on the block were playing guitar so when my friend Eric (Duke Snyder's older brother) picked it up, I had to learn. All my friends were into music. Jim Damm was a kid that transferred from St. Robert's in Euclid to my school. Jim was a kick ass drummer. Oddly enough we would play upstairs in Jim's bedroom while his folks sat downstairs. Yes it was loud, but they let us do it. So Jim and I started jamming in grade school. When were in high school we met Brandon Zart and were practicing Bowie, Sex Pistols and such with no name or any intention of playing out. I guess we turned into a real band when Bill came along.
Story 2 - Bob Sablack
We recorded 51% at this posh recording studio called Angel Recording. There were pictures of the OJays on the wall and stuff (nothing against those guys). The engineer (Mike Way) was somewhat of a shween (you've heard of the king of the jungle, well this guy was the dick of the woods). He didn't like us and we didn't like him. He told me i was playing beyond my capabilities. So what, we were paying for the time. I remember setting the snare drum sound and he said it was the worst snare drum he ever heard. I thought it sounded like the English band the Fall. I love 51%, but this butt plug made it sound too clean, oh well.
The Defnics recordings we did with Mike Crossen on 185th all ruled as far as i'm concerned. Suicide Trip is my all time fave. Here's the story on that. We went in the studio one afternoon and started laying down basic tracks. We did three songs that day, Suicide Trip, Life So Fast and Brandon's ditty My Girl. Mike Hudson was there overseeing his Terminal buddies in action. If you haven't heard it, Suicide Trip has a long solo at the end. We never practiced it like that before we went in the studio, I think it was an idea that just sprung up. So, Johnny, Brandon and Bill (a.k.a. Robert Conn) lay down the rhythm track. I was kinda scared because the end of the song seemed to go on forever while I listened to them play. So next it's my turn to do this thing. I'm sitting there on a bar stool in the middle of the recording room with headphones on and my Stratocaster looking through the control room window.
All my buds are on the other side watching me. Mike Crossen rolls the tape and everything was cool up until I get to that solo thing. I did make a little mistake on the chord change in the first chorus, I smeared the barre chord a little but it sounded good! Now it's time to jam. It was all made up there and became a template for every other time we played it from then on. And to be truthful no other version came off as well as that one did. I made up some kind of descending riff for the beginning of the solo and after that it was all vibratos and noisy soloing to give the impression of a bad trip. So I'm wailing away for a while and I think it's all good and I'm ready to throw in the towel so I look up and both Mikes, Brandon and Bill are waving their hands in a KEEP GOING motion. I'm all OH FUCK, they're all keep going. So I put my head back down and kept going.
They had the advantage of seeing the counter on the tape machine and knew I was only half through my part. It seemed like an eternity. I dug in and kept playing. Recently I recognized the spot in the song where I looked up. So after a while I reverted to the descending riff to end the solo which happened at exactly the right time, just dumb luck. After all these years of recording and playing that moment is my most treasured. It's funny how a million things can go wrong in a studio but when they go right it's better than bustin' a nut. Mike Hudson said it was the second favorite song he ever sang on. When I asked him what was the first, he wouldn't answer.
I spent a lot of time with the Defnics in the early 80's. We practiced right next door to them and often-shared chords, amps, beer, and whatever drugs were available. I was especially proud to loan Brandon my Kustom bass amp when they went to record "Suicide Trip" for the Cleveland Confidential album. The first time I saw the Defnics was downstairs at Tucky's.
I watched in awe as they bashed through an hour set of original '77 Style' punk. Bob's "Johnny Thunderisms" echoing through the ex-show bar. After "Life So Fast," Robert Conn casually announced, "That was our Punk Rock song." Soon after we became good friends. I'd often show up at their rehearsals with quarts of beer (they'd supply the weed), and listen to them practice.
Occasionally I'd get to sing "Bodies" or "Sonic Reducer" with the Defnics as my backing band. I was in all my glory. I think the moment that sums up our friendship is when we all went down to Akron for Grand Slam II. I vividly remember doing 80 mph down I-77 in my parents' Delta 88, when the Defnics pulled up next to us and wanted to exchange a couple joints for a few beers. Still doing 80 Johnny and I pulled our cars close enough to each other to make the exchange. Norb, Paul, and Crevo rolled down the windows and passed them a couple beers each. The transaction went so smoothly I often wondered what nearby motorists must have thought. We probably looked like some Drunken Acrobatic Motor Vehicle team (DAMV?) . Who knows, maybe we all missed our calling?